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March ballot question for Raton Water Works

by Marty Mayfield
KRTN Multi-Media
RATON — The Raton Water Works faces many challenges in the coming years, none of which may be more important than funding.  This March 6, 2018, you the voters will face the choice to help them make it or break it when you go to the polls to vote on a supplemental gross receipts tax and bond question.
In less than a year from now, the supplemental gross receipts tax (SGRT) that Raton voters overwhelmingly approved in 1982 for water infrastructure improvements will expire.  Raton Water Works is hoping the citizens of Raton will see the need to extend that SGRT at a lower level.  The current tax is at 1%, and should voters approve it, the new tax will be .75% or a quarter percent less than water users are paying now.  Should this SGRT fail, Raton’s water rates, which are currently some of the lowest in the state, will likely go up.
There will be two questions on the ballot.  One for the gross receipts tax and one for the $7,000,000 bond question that the SGRT will pay for.  In order for the tax to pass, both questions will have to pass.  In others words the “For” box on both questions will need to be filled in for the tax to pass.
So what will the tax money do?
By using this form of funding, a supplemental gross receipts tax, not only do the citizens of Raton pay for, but they get help from, all those tourist and travelers that pass through Raton and pay gross receipts taxes on meals and lodging which spreads the costs around.
The money from this tax will go for improvements to the aging Raton water system and only capital improvements on the system.  The filter plant, built in 1946, is in need of major upgrades and also needs to meet new government regulations concerning water quality.  The Cimarron pipeline and associated equipment is now 35 years old and in need of work.  Dan Campbell, Raton Water Works General Manager, notes it is time to replace those 35-year-old pumps and that is what the SGRT will be used for. Other infrastructure improvements will include transmission pipeline replacement and repairs in the Raton city limits.
A recent project to replace a pipeline on south First Street replaced piping that had been in the ground since the early 1900s.  The transmission line that ran under Second Street was replaced during the street reconstruction project, which allowed for improved water delivery through much of the town. These projects were paid for by the one cent supplemental gross receipts tax.  Had that tax not been in place, projects like that and the Cimarron Water pipeline project may not have been a reality.  Had Raton not had the Cimarron water source during the Track Fire, it could have been even more disastrous.
During the rehabilitation of the Lake Maloya water shed, money from that one cent tax was used along with some federal money.  Had Raton not had that one cent tax in place they wouldn’t have had money for those rehab projects at the lake, nor gotten it done as quickly as federal monies were slow in coming.  The speed that the rehab projects got underway greatly enhanced the return of water quality to Lake Maloya.
The Track Fire came very close to Lake Maloya, Raton’s main water supply, cutting it off. Thanks to the foresight of the city fathers, who built a water pipeline from Cimarron to Raton, the city still had drinking water during the fire.
Photo by Marty Mayfield